Deflate the wheels of drug addiction

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Do you know that an adolescent brain works differently than an adult brain when it comes to making decisions? For example, a science experiment involving simulated driving was conducted by Professor Laurence Steinberg of Temple University. It has been observed that when adolescents play the driving game on their own, their risk-taking matches that of adults. However, when playing it with their friends, teens broke more traffic lights and crashed more often. Ask yourself why? The study found that areas of the brain associated with reward were overactive in teens when their friends were around. The reward center (go-system) is associated with pleasure. It reinforces the behavior that gives us pleasure. This center being hyperactive in adolescents, it makes them impulsive, curious and taking risks. Their impulse control system is also not fully developed to prevent them from engaging in risky behaviors. Therefore, the likelihood of a teenager using drugs depends more on how their brains are wired. It’s like a toddler can put their hands in fire, a teenager can try drugs.

Drug use may start innocently at first, out of curiosity, to show off to friends, succumb to peer pressure, or simply to escape the real world and its vagaries. Since the quitting system is less developed in adolescents, it does not take much time for drug use to become abuse and abuse to become addictive. In fact, research has found that those who first try drugs as a teenager are much more likely to become addicted than those who try drugs when they are in their twenties. Thus, drug prevention strategies should primarily target adolescents.

We need to take a multi-faceted, multi-step approach to preventing drug use. This should be analogous to the Swiss cheese accident prevention model, i.e. there should be multiple layers of protection to prevent a teenager from trying drugs in the first place and then prevent things from happening. degenerate if they try drugs. Addiction can only occur when all the layers of protection fail, that is, when all the holes in Swiss cheese line up. These layers include, but are not limited to, family, school, community, and scientific research.

Family

The family being the first place of learning for any individual, the first layer of protection should be offered by the family. The family teaches many things to children, but the mode of teaching should be conviction rather than coercion. You can’t tell a child to say no to drugs if they are being bullied outside. It is useless; drugs provide respite. No matter how much you force them, they will continue to have their secret experiments. It is important to tackle the root cause of the problems that children may be facing rather than trying to cure the symptoms. How can this be done? Communicate well with your children (don’t lecture them), and support them (emotionally, financially, cognitively and socially) in order to develop a strong bond with your children. It is important to spend time with our children. This helps us to recognize aberrant behavior early on; interventions at the early stages of drug use are increasingly effective. Research has shown that children who do not have dinner with the family are two to three times more likely to use drugs. Likewise, parents should help children with their homework in order to release their academic pressure and the stress that comes with it. Parents should appreciate their children, encourage them rather than compare them or be frustrated with them. School failures and feelings of worthlessness can lead to depression, drugs and suicide.

Likewise, it is also important that family members check their own behavior. They shouldn’t do drugs, especially in front of their children. Children of parents who use drugs are more likely to follow in their footsteps. Likewise, parents should avoid fighting in front of their children; it is disastrous for the mental health of a child. Deteriorating mental health is often a precursor to drug use and suicide.

School

Currently, there are rarely any schools that have programs that teach children how to cope with stress and other social issues. It is necessary to integrate a school curriculum in schools to improve the mental well-being of students, to teach them social interaction skills and critical thinking in order to improve their self-esteem. Low self-esteem can lead to drug use. The need for such a program is higher than ever, as the online education system, with the least amount of social interaction, has already taken its toll on mental health. The pandemic has made the situation even worse.

Community

The role of the community is crucial in reducing drug use. First, the community should strive to create an environment where teens can channel their energy and take trend risks in a positive direction. This could include the conduct of sports tournaments and debate competitions at community level, for example. To satisfy the thrill of some teenagers, adventure sports like mountaineering and hiking should also be encouraged. These will keep children occupied, increase their social interaction, and help overcome feelings of loneliness, which is often seen as a precursor to drug use and suicide. Engaging in different forms of exercise will also reduce their screen time, social media addiction (also correlated with drug use), and improve their overall well-being.

Second, we must eliminate the stigma and ignominy associated with drug use. We all make mistakes in our lives and then try to learn from them to become better individuals. The problem with drugs is that if we try drugs we are no longer in control. No matter how restrained we may be, we are likely to relapse given the myriad of possibilities that lead to drug use. It is important that a drug addict can approach and communicate about his quagmire, at an early stage, to his parents and / or to institutions that can help with rehabilitation, just like when one has an illness and they are approaching the doctors . Drug addiction is also a disease. Early intervention is imperative because once a person becomes addicted; rehabilitation is very difficult even when institutional help is sought.

Scientific Research

The role of the community in weakening the stigma associated with drug use has a critical role in promoting scientific research on detoxification in Kashmir. Treating it as a disease (it is a disease but unfortunately seen only as a character flaw) will make it easier for political parties to integrate it into their manifestos, and subsequently policy makers will be able to allocate funds in this direction of appropriate way. Adopting intuition-based practices to reduce addiction is ineffective and may even exacerbate the already worsening situation by invoking curiosity. We have been campaigning against drug use for a long time, but its (in) effectiveness is evident. Thus, a research-based approach is needed to prevent and cure drug use and addiction.

Public policy

The existence of an appropriate public policy (framework) can serve as a catalyst to strengthen the layers of protection. For example, incorporate a college program that prepares young adults to become effective and supportive parents in the future. Parenthood is an art, and it must be enriched. No wonder children in poor neighborhoods and slums, where there is a general lack of education, are more prone to drug use. Schools that work to improve mental health could benefit from special incentives. Likewise, policymakers can ensure the construction of more sports facilities to help social groups direct the energy of young people in a positive way. Young people should be full of adventure, not drugs. Likewise, policy makers should collaborate with institutions such as IMHANS (Kashmir Institute of Mental Health and Neuroscience) and DDC PCR (Police Controlled Drug Detoxification and Rehabilitation Centers) before developing a policy on drug-related problems.

In summary, drug addiction cannot be approached by looking at it in isolation, but the interconnections with other parameters must be explored. To give a few more examples, an effective domestic violence policy can go a long way in ensuring children’s mental health. Facilitating marriages can prevent many families, especially the poorest, from slipping into depression and resorting to suicide and / or drug use to take refuge in an alternate delusional world that offers temporary respite.

(The author is a PhD candidate in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Gandhinagar and can be emailed to [email protected])


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